Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Not feeling the groove

Some days seem to flow. One thing after the next, all in the right order, no wasted time thrashing around. Some days do not flow, and just lately it seems they aren't for me. No real reason why that I know of. Except maybe this. I'm tired of this.

I've been working on a blog post for most of a week now, noodling along, doing some math about the cost of water for us. I was reading it this morning and wonder what on earth I'm trying to say. Even if anyone clicks on the link, they're going to look at the wall of text and all the numbers and most will bail. And I can't blame them.

Some things are still working. I'm happy that it's things relating to other people, like the two recent photo sessions I did. One super fun one with Michelle, see here in case you missed it, and an Easter Egg hunt for my community association. I got a ton of nice photos out of each, so that much is to the good.

We scurried around to find all the tax slips. Most of mine are electronic now, but I still had to log in and download them. Some come on paper, and some of them are a duplicate of the electronic versions. About the only thing that isn't electronic are the receipts for medical stuff. Linda likes to include all that just in case it makes a difference. Mostly the process is pretty painless now. We send in the paperwork, electronic or otherwise, the accountant does his thing, we review and sign electronically. We've been using an accountant for many years. For me the fee is well worth it to avoid the hassle of filling out the forms. Even the electronic version has frustrations, and it's easy to miss stuff. I think we're both going to have to pay a bit of tax this year, and that's the way we like it. My thinking is that if you're getting a refund, it means you paid too much tax during the year. If you have a choice about it, and not everybody does, why give the government money before you need to?

Trying to avoid going down another blog rabbit hole, but the income tax situation is right out of hand. It begs for simplification. There are so many exemptions and deductions for an alphabet soup of programs, all of it administered by an arcane set of rules. When extremely rich people are paying very little or no tax at all, there's something wrong with the system. When a person with some accounting background, with a salaried job and fairly simple financial affairs, is reduced to rage and swearing and tears in the process of filling out the paper forms, there's something wrong with the system.

I was chatting with one of the people who periodically follow my blog, and showing them the recent Michelle photos. I was astonished to learn that they had not known that they could click on the photos to make them bigger, and that you can go from one to the next using the keyboard arrow keys. I hope you all knew that, but if I see a spike in traffic in the next little while, I'll know someone or a few someones are going back for another look. That's all good. 

One of the reasons I dislike updating software is that almost always the new "features" are nothing that I need or want, and that often they get in the way of doing what I want, and sometimes something that I want goes away. This is not a springboard to an AI rant, that is still brewing.

The recent example of that is in Chrome. I use it to write the blog. When I was adding photos, I used to be able to tag it during the addition process. That way I'm less likely to accidentally repeat a photo. It worked really well for the serendipities because I could tag everything at once. 

Except now I can't. I have to add it to the blog, and then go find it in the folder and tag it. Or them. In today's blog there is a serendipity. So since it's a two step process, and there are days I know my brain is not firing on all cylinders, I might forget. 

So if you see a repeated photo, there could be a couple things. One is that it's a deliberate repeat, like for image of the month or year. Or it could be a really similar photo. Or, yes, it could be a repeat. Such is life. If seeing a repeat is the worst thing that happens in your day, I'm happy for you.

Of the Day
Driftwood (NZ)


Film (new)
Frosty islands in the stream.

And a sunny serendipity as we struggle through 3rd spring.

Michelle X2
The double exposure, playing with some fabric.

One of the first photos as I was dialling in camera settings, figuring out distances, and all that good behind the scenes stuff.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Spring in Calgary

One of the definitions of whiplash is spring in Calgary. Last Monday (the 18th) was beautiful. T shirt and BBQ weather. Pedal and motorbikes everywhere. Several bees were out looking for flowers. Not yet, little ones. Here's what the yard and garden beds look like after a long hard winter.

1. The front patio, complete with the food bell that has been attracting the bird herd, as we call it. At times we have up to a dozen little birds scuffling to peck at it. Oddly enough, while Celina can easily see them she isn't interested. But the few times a magpie or crow showed up, she paid attention. 



4. The front of the house faces due south, so naturally the snow first melts there. Linda worries about her plants waking up too early.


7. The east side of the house, with the remnants of snow that slid off the roof.






13. Those of my readers with long memories will note there are no longer any small trees in the garden. The brutal weather changes killed them. I miss the Muckle Plum because it had beautiful pink blossoms. 

14. This is supposed to be the path to get from the back door to the BBQ, except it's ice under the water and dangerously slippery. I didn't use to worry about such things. Falling down wasn't a big deal. I'm getting more and more aware that things start to fall apart in mid-60's, and don't want to accelerate that process through unnecessary events.

15. I don't know if this plant has started growing, even in the snow, or if it's just this colour even when dormant.

16. I don't think anything is actually growing in this garden. The ground is still frozen.


18. One of the peonies, biding it's time.

19. One of the hens and chicks poking out of the rubble and looking around.

20. Linda says this is a tulip. Optimistic, don't you think?

That was Monday. Tuesday started sunny and then began to get cloudy. I was looking at the sky driving home from a swim to see some lovely rays or fingers of clouds from west to east. I was wishing I had a camera and a better viewpoint. It started snowing late that evening and essentially hasn't stopped since. It's now late morning on Thursday, and the forecast says it's going to keep on snowing until Saturday. It's not particularly cold, only a few degrees below zero. Just snowing, complete with idiot drivers. Don't get me started.

You don't need pictures of snow. Just imagine all the above photos to be completely white. Well, ok, the stone siding of the house and the fence are not white. Maybe 10 cm so far? It's hard to tell because the first part of it melted.

In other news, the travellers who are reading this might want to check out Sean's blog. He has been posting photos from his recent travels in 'the Stans'. 

Of the Day
Driftwood (NZ)

Film (new)

Double Exposure

Sunday, March 17, 2024

COVID 2020 to 2024

Almost exactly 4 years ago I wrote about COVID here. You might want to review. One of the salient points is this chart.

American deaths, slightly rounded.
Vietnam    58,300  over 20 years, with peak death rates in the 70's so a low deaths per month rate overall. First real time graphic media coverage of a war, so that might be part of the impact.
Korea            36,500    36 months    1,000/month
WWI           116,000    19 months    6,100/month
WWII          417,000   45 months   9,200/month
Civil War     750,000   48 months  15,600/month
COVID        140,000    5 months   28,000/month (so far, and the number of cases is growing daily. The death rate cannot but rise along with it.) (this was as of March 2020.)
Spanish Flu  675,000  12 months   56,000/month
(As a note, the USA population in 2018 was about 103 million people, so about half of 1 percent of the American population died of Spanish Flu.)

And now, COVID in 2024, as of last week per CID here, is 1.184 MILLION deaths out of a total population of 332 million. Those deaths are the entire population of cities like San Jose, San Diego, or Dallas. All of these are in the top 10 cities ranked by population. Imagine that, one of the biggest cities in America, with everybody dying. Over 4 years that is 24,600/month. 

Or another way to think about it, COVID killed a third of 1 percent of the population, and that's WITH our knowledge base about disease, and the treatments available. And on the flip side, that's WITH the anti-vaxx, anti-mask, anti-public heath measure idiots.

Total hospitalizations is 6.88 MILLION, or 2 percent of the American population were sick enough to go to a hospital. They don't know how many were sick enough to go, but didn't because they couldn't afford it. Or waited too long and died before they got there. 

So far in Canada, according to this government site, there have been 58,643 deaths from COVID. That's the population of St. Alberta, almost the population of Prince George. There were 55 in the last week alone. 

I worked from home mid 2020 to middish 2021, then retired from oil and gas work. I've mostly lost touch with people still working, but the little I do hear is that most office workers are still working at least part time from home. The bosses are trying to nudge the workers back to full time in the office, and there's some push back. During the walk through the +15 a couple weeks ago we noted there weren't many people around, and that was lunchtime on a Tuesday. 

There are still complaints that business can't hire enough people, which is why it takes so long to get stuff done, and why it's so expensive. As a quick digression, many people blame Trudeau for this. Him personally, with malice aforethought, did everything bad over the last couple generations. He personally signed all the CERB cheques that got sent to a bunch of freeloaders. I have heard those very words straight from the lips of cranky old men in the hot tub. I bite my tongue. When they start babbling about Trump I leave, fearing the verbal diarrhea might turn to the fecal version.

Here we are 4 years later. In lots of ways we're back to 'normal'. Before COVID there were a few people wearing masks for whatever reason, and now it's about the same again. Traffic is as bad as ever. I don't go to the malls much, but the parking lots are full. The library is busy. The farmers market we like is busy. Our main supermarket is under active construction, so I don't know if the before/after comparison is fair, but there's still lots of people in it.

And do you know what's really busy? Really, really busy? Hospitals. They are overwhelmed, and it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Wait times are through the roof. All the illnesses and conditions that could be managed with regular care, all those "optional" procedures, all the older people wanting some level of medical care to prevent or delay worse conditions, were deferred or delayed because the hallways were full of people dying of COVID. And now all that deferred treatment is coming home to roost, in a system where the medical professionals have been drained dry over the last 4 years. Many have retired, taken stress leave, or just burned out. And if that wasn't bad enough, Alberta's idiot UCP government chose to pick a fight with the doctors and nurses in an effort to send money to privatized clinics that would benefit Minister Shandro and other buddies of the regime.

That's part of the Conservative mind-set. Defund the public services, then claim they don't work, cherry pick the best parts to be outsourced to their buddies for private profit. Except it doesn't work. Service at the medical labs took an abrupt turn for the worse when privatized. It used to be one could make an appointment for a couple days out, no problem, and urgent tests could often be done the same day. Last time I needed blood work done it was 5 weeks till the first appointment at all, and 6 to get one that was mostly convenient. Even with the scheduling, the appointments were running 45 minutes to an hour late, for a reserved time. Now we're going to have to spend 31.5 million to rescue the lab services from Dynalife. We should get that money from the people that made the decision to hire Dynalife by suing them into bankruptcy. Plus the Dynalife execs.

And some people think it's a good idea to let the UCP strip off a pile of money from the CPP managers, and let their pet investment agency (Aimco) 'manage' it. Or more likely, lose it through politically motivated boondoggles, just like the Heritage Fund. Don't get me started.

Back to COVID. Disease is the scourge of humanity. In many wars disease killed more than the fighting. Disease doesn't care if your cause is noble. Disease doesn't care what god or gods you worship, or don't. A human lifetime ago, if you got infected from any of a nearly infinite number of causes, you had a small chance of fighting it off, but most likely you died. Half the people born didn't make it to 15. It was a pretty grim world. 

We know so much more now. We know our hands are a great disease vector, and washing them with soap and water is a great way to break the chain of infection. It took a long time to convince doctors that going directly from doing an autopsy to a childbirth was a great way to kill mother and child. Some people still don't get it.

It takes a special sort of stupid to believe that the vaccine is worse than the disease. Yes, there are a few people who for various reasons cannot or should not be vaccinated, and an actual medical doctor can provide the appropriate advice. Not a priest or any of their ilk, or a youtuber 'expert'. For most people the downside is a sore arm or drowsiness. Better than dying any day. All the excuses are bullshit. Consult the appropriate medical advice and suck it up. Deniers are the major reason why TB and measles are coming back.

Rust never sleeps, so our infrastructures will fall down if not maintained. 
Disease never sleeps. Our best efforts only make it take a short rest.

Friday, March 15, 2024


No I'm not smoking dope. I'm just finishing my first cup of coffee. I'll explain.

There are many kinds of photographs, done with many different intentions. Some are wonderful, some are not. There is a particular category that I call, There I was, and this is what I saw. (now go back and look at the title again. Are we good?)


Those of you that have been following along know I go to Red Deer to buy wine kits. Why? It's cheaper. I saved $60 on one kit. We're only buying 3 kits this year, but it adds up, even considering the cost of gas to get there and back. I happen to know that our car will burn 18 L of gas for that trip. Gas is shockingly expensive just now, at $1.49 /L, so $27 for the trip. It's even better when I can pick up all the kits in one trip, but that doesn't always happen. That was about to turn into a digression on oil company profit margins, but I restrained myself.

I sometimes like to take the scenic route, and sometimes my friend Sean comes along, and we both bring our cameras. Yesterday was such a day.

The problem is that this is the yucky season for landscapes. Melting snow and nothing growing doesn't make for good photos. Search light bright sunlight scorching the snow doesn't help. However, it is what it is, and part of the challenge is to find or create nice photos anyways.

I cannot count the number of times I've driven past the signs for Dickson Dam, which creates Gleniffer Lake. I've never been there, and decided that was as good a place as any to check out. After all, what's the worst that could happen?

Which leads back to the title. We got there ok, and wandered around a bit. There wasn't much to see. Unless things change dramatically, there isn't much to see even in summer. We took photos anyways, but they do not even pretend to be anything more than documentary evidence we were there.

1. The spillway from across the river valley, from a viewing area that I think is a teenage hangout for watching the submarine races, given the fast food containers overflowing the garbage bins.

2. Faint shadows on ice.

3. Ice cracks with faint shadows.

4. The water level is way way down.


6. Converting to B&W was the only way to actually see the mountains in the photo.


8. Best photo of the day, Sean working on a composition with the most interesting thing we saw there.

9. That white area in the left foreground? That's Gleniffer beach. Ipanema and Piha have nothing to worry about.

Was the trip a failure? Of course not! After this we zig zagged into Red Deer, got the wine kit, had a nice lunch and drove back, with great conversation along the way. 

To change the topic a bit, one of the things was discussing activities in person with other people, such as shared events, coffee, or lunch, and how much better that is than on-line 'interactions'. 

Of the Day
Driftwood (NZ)


and a serendipity from 2016.

Film (new) There were some thoughts about the juxtaposition of those wooden seats, at least that's what I think they are, with the towers downtown.

Double Exposure

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

That DST thing, again

Last Sunday was the spring forward part of the fall back cycle. I'm not even working a job these days, and typically don't have to be anywhere in particular at an hour imposed on me, and certainly not an uncivilized hour. And yet, here it is Wednesday afternoon, and I'm still kind of messed up. It feels like I should have just finished coffee and be working on some writing, and yet it's 1:19 in the afternoon. Granted we were up a bit late last night, and I didn't sleep well, so slept in a bit more than usual.

But holy doodle, it seems like I'm running late and I hate that feeling. It reminds me of the time when I was periodically visiting Richmound SK to do software training and data integrity feedback. Richmound isn't the middle of nowhere, but it's well along the way. There are no hotels there or nearby. The closest are in Medicine Hat, about an hours drive away. 

Visits there always had the dance of double checking when DST started or ended. Saskatchewan is sensible in some ways, in that they stay on Central Standard Time year round. So during the summer, visits there only have to account for the hour's travel time. During the rest of the year, it's two hours to be accounted for, with me wanting to push for the later starting time. 

Except the staff at remote locations typically have priorities that do not include training. If they get started on something else, they might not show up. I've even had operators perk up on hearing an alarm during class, and say "Oh shit, XXXX is covering for us, and he doesn't know" and they ran. I didn't see them again.

Going further back, working at the City plant, on a rotating shift. There was no provision for the time change in our schedule or pay. At the appointed hour we would dutifully change all the clocks. During the spring forward it was suddenly an hour later and we would only work 11 hours. The times we turned the clocks back made for a long shift, even if we did take the extra hour as a break.

I wish that Alberta would pick MST and stick with it year round. I think I could cope with doing the DST version year round. The 2021 referendum to go to permanent DST was pretty well evenly split, leaning slightly toward sticking with the current system. I think it should have asked about staying with MST permanently, and I suspect that would have passed. 

A random winter sunset for you.

Of the Day
Driftwood (NZ)

Driftwood (BC) And this is it till my next trip.


Film (new) Once again, X does not mark the spot.

Double Exposure